Champions Cup qualifiers need to be changed or cancelled

This is going to be a bit of a rant because there’s a lot of work for me ahead of regionals so I’m pressed for time but I thought this was an important topic to address nonetheless.

My position is that Valve need to either remove the option to qualify for regionals via the Champions Cup or they need to adjust how it works in several ways.

This article was prompted by the fact that for the second time in a row the SEA Champions Cup has been ‘won’ by the only team who registered for it. Given the fact that the region is so competitive at the moment and there’s at least a dozen open qualifier teams worthy of being in regionals, it annoyed me to discover that one slot would be filled by a team merely for going through the motions when others did not.

To be clear, I have no issue with Skatemasters. It’s perfectly reasonable for them to seize this kind of opportunity. My issue is with a system that allows for this sort of possibility to exist. Yes, everyone had equal opportunity to register for this tournament. Yes, that means that the failure of others to do so reflects poor decision-making on their part.

But, firstly, even if it really was that simple, it’s still a bad system if all it takes is the ignorance of participants to lead to an absurd outcome. Why absurd? Because it’s the fucking International. We’re trying to give everyone a chance to qualify, while hoping to facilitate the best teams qualifying in order to create the best possible TI. I can say with absolute certainty that having whichever one team registers automatically get a slot is not the best thing for the level of competition and therefore not the best thing for TI. It’s also just totally fucking ridiculous for anyone to qualify for a ‘competitive’ event merely by signing up.

Secondly, it’s not actually as simple as player/team ignorance. The system is very badly advertised, with very little information published on it to start with, and the existing info is really quite ridiculous and confusing.

Consider this. Thousands of teams are winning Battle Cups. And that’s all that’s required to enter the Champions Cup. So, why aren’t teams entering it? The way I see it there’s two likely explanations. First, because they literally don’t understand the process. Second, because the team did not stick together for the whopping 3 months they’d have had to in order to participate as a team.

Valve absolutely ought to provide clear and detailed information about, and advertise the existence of the Champions Cup. Here’s one thing that isn’t clear. You have to qualify for a Champions Cup by playing Battle Cups one season prior to that particular Champions Cup. In other words teams had to earn Battle Cup points before the Kiev Major in order to participate in the TI7 Champions Cup. Is there any person alive who finds that intuitive?

But lets look past whether or not it’s intuitive. It’s also very difficult to find this information. Here’s an experiment. You’re reading this. Go find this information. See how long it takes. Then, when you find it, see how long you take to study it in order to understand what the fuck is going on.

Worst of all, though, is the fact that having to qualify so far in advance is simply an unreasonable requirement. These are tier 2/3 teams we’re talking about. For the most part teams like this don’t have the luxury of sticking together for 3 months. Why? Because there’s really just very little incentive for a lower level team to stick together if they’re failing to achieve any kind of meaningful results or progress in that kind of time span. 3 months in Dota 2 time is like 3 years in normal time. It’s just too long.

In fact, if you exclude the top teams who are regularly getting directly invited to stuff, very few tier 1 teams even stay as the same five for much more than 3 months. And roster shuffles have a domino effect which always starts at the top and always ends at the bottom. Any time top teams make changes that forces lower down to teams to deal with the knock-on effects.

Moving on, here’s the next thing that isn’t clear. I’m sure there’s some people who have read the previous paragraphs and are already shouting this at their monitors.

The rules actually don’t require you to enter the Champions Cup with the same players you won your Battle Cup/s with!

This is exactly how Skatemasters have qualified. They’re not playing with their normal lineup but a lineup comprised of players who had the requisite points to enter. What the fuck is the point in this? Surely the only possible reason to qualify one season in advance is to encourage roster stability? If you can just enter with whoever the fuck you want, why are we earning points so far in advance? And in any case why is this something we want to encourage? Hey, here’s a route to qualify for the biggest tournament of the year which starts with you making a new team at the last minute! Seemsgood

Here’s the thing. I think the creation of Champions Cups was a really good idea. Battle Cups are themselves a cool idea and making them matter more is great. It also moves closer towards a system that runs itself and I’m sure a part of Valve’s intention here was to test that kinda setup. Well, the test has been a resounding failure. And by the way it’s not just SEA. NA only had 4 teams enter. China had 8. And the highest number was Europe with a whopping 11. When you compare these numbers to the 500+ teams entering each open qualifier it just seems like some kind of sick joke.

Just think for a minute about what the difference is between the two. Is there any way in which the teams who entered the Champions Cup are any more qualified to be in regionals than those entering open qualifiers? Is there anything that makes them better? Most of the players entering open qualifiers have won Battle Cups or could easily do so if they wanted to. If you asked any of those teams if they’d rather join a qualifier with 1–11 teams or one with 500–1000 teams, they’d all opt for the former (Probably, the two would then ultimately reach some equilibrium). So there’s an optimal outcome that the system is simply not producing.

Yes, 100 times, I completely agree that serious teams can and should be doing more to understand how this system works so they can take advantage of it. Some have. But that doesn’t change that the system itself is opaque, confusing, and rarely even mentioned anywhere. It’s also counter-intuitive in the timing of when you have to a qualify and it ultimately encourages roster instability.

For me the bottom line is that it’s the fucking International and shit should be done properly. Every step of the way things should be clear, fair, competitive and professional. Does anyone really think it’s not ridiculous to have teams get into regional qualifiers for a (probably) 20 million dollar tournament simply by being the only ones to understand some obscure procedures?

The system as it exists makes a complete mockery of how serious the International is meant to be. It really doesn’t matter if you think it’s simple to navigate and easy to understand. The fact is that’s not happening and the system should not allow for the ignorance of players (if you insist on narrowing it down to that) to lead to a ridiculous outcome. Either the system needs to be changed or it needs to be scrapped.